Linked List: September 2018

Jamf Now: Streamlined Apple Device Management 

My thanks to Jamf for once again sponsoring Daring Fireball. Jamf Now is a simple device management solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Their latest feature: custom apps and packages. Deploy apps like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and Google Chrome to your managed Macs via custom package (.pkg) deployment and distribute third-party apps (not available in the App Store) to your managed iOS devices with custom app (.ipa) deployment in the new Jamf Now Plus plan.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Add more starting at $2/device/month. Create your free account today.

Facebook Claims Network Breach Affects Up to 50 Million Users 

Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, reporting for The New York Times:

Facebook on Friday said an attack on its computer network led to the exposure of information from nearly 50 million of its users.

Who wants to bet that a week or two from now they “discover” it was 100 million accounts, and then eventually admit it was 200 million?

Elon Musk Is Sued by S.E.C. in Move That Could Oust Him 

Matthew Goldstein and Emily Flitter, reporting for The New York Times:

At issue is Mr. Musk’s declaration on Twitter last month that he had “funding secured” to buy out the stock of the electric-car maker. The prospect created a firestorm on social media and in the markets that sent Tesla’s shares soaring.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements with the potential to hurt investors. The suit seeks to bar Mr. Musk, who is also Tesla’s chairman, from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies like Tesla. Such a punishment is one of the most serious remedies the S.E.C. can impose against a corporate executive. [...]

The S.E.C. said Mr. Musk “knew or was reckless in not knowing” that his statements were false or misleading. “In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source,” the S.E.C. said in its lawsuit.

I don’t know if he’s going to be forced out, but there’s no question he did exactly what the S.E.C. says he did. There’s no nuance to it. He committed securities fraud in a tweet.

Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information 

Terrific reporting by Kashmir Hill for Gizmodo:

Facebook is not upfront about this practice. In fact, when I asked its PR team last year whether it was using shadow contact information for ads, they denied it. Luckily for those of us obsessed with the uncannily accurate nature of ads on Facebook platforms, a group of academic researchers decided to do a deep dive into how Facebook custom audiences work to find out how users’ phone numbers and email addresses get sucked into the advertising ecosystem. [...]

The researchers also found that if User A, whom we’ll call Anna, shares her contacts with Facebook, including a previously unknown phone number for User B, whom we’ll call Ben, advertisers will be able to target Ben with an ad using that phone number, which I call “shadow contact information,” about a month later. Ben can’t access his shadow contact information, because that would violate Anna’s privacy, according to Facebook, so he can’t see it or delete it, and he can’t keep advertisers from using it either.

The lead author on the paper, Giridhari Venkatadri, said this was the most surprising finding, that Facebook was targeted ads using information “that was not directly provided by the user, or even revealed to the user.”

Paraphrasing, Hill’s back and forth with Facebook over these practices went like this:

Hill: Facebook, are you doing this terrible thing?

Facebook: No, we don’t do that.

Hill, months later: Here’s academic research that shows you do this terrible thing.

Facebook: Yes, of course we do that.

At this point I consider Facebook a criminal enterprise. Maybe not legally, but morally. How in the above scenario is Facebook not stealing Ben’s privacy?

The Inside Story of Trump’s Shambolic Transition Team 

The Guardian has an excerpt from Michael Lewis’s new book, The Fifth Risk:

Chris Christie was sitting on a sofa beside Trump when Pennsylvania was finally called. It was 1.35am, but that wasn’t the only reason the feeling in the room was odd. Mike Pence went to kiss his wife, Karen, and she turned away from him. “You got what you wanted, Mike,” she said. “Now leave me alone.” She wouldn’t so much as say hello to Trump. Trump himself just stared at the TV without saying anything, like a man with a pair of twos whose bluff has been called. His campaign hadn’t even bothered to prepare an acceptance speech. It was not hard to see why Trump hadn’t seen the point in preparing to take over the federal government: why study for a test you will never need to take? Why take the risk of discovering you might, at your very best, be a C student? This was the real part of becoming president of the US. And, Christie thought, it scared the crap out of the president-elect.

Not long after the people on TV announced that Trump had won Pennsylvania, Jared Kushner grabbed Christie anxiously and said: “We have to have a transition meeting tomorrow morning!” Even before that meeting, Christie had made sure that Trump knew the protocol for his discussions with foreign leaders. The transition team had prepared a document to let him know how these were meant to go. The first few calls were easy — the very first was always with the prime minister of Great Britain — but two dozen calls in you were talking to some kleptocrat and tiptoeing around sensitive security issues. Before any of the calls could be made, however, the president of Egypt called in to the switchboard at Trump Tower and somehow got the operator to put him straight through to Trump. “Trump was like ... I love the Bangles! You know that song Walk Like an Egyptian?” recalled one of his advisers on the scene.

WSJ Claims iPhone XR’s Delayed Release Is Strategic 

Tripp Mickle, Yoko Kubota, and Takashi Mochizuki, reporting last week for The Wall Street Journal:

Last year’s release of the high-end iPhone X came six weeks after Apple’s other two new, less expensive smartphones because of what The Wall Street Journal and others reported were production delays involving its advanced organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen.

This year, according to people familiar with Apple’s production plans, the company prioritized production of its two pricier OLED models, the iPhone XS and XS Max, whose prices start at about $1,000. Both will hit stores Friday, followed five weeks later by the least expensive new model, the XR, which has an LCD screen and a starting price of $749.

The staggered release gives Apple a month to sell the higher-end models without cheaper competition from itself. It also simplifies logistics and retail demands and could strengthen Apple’s ability to forecast sales and production of all three models through the Christmas holidays, analysts and supply chain experts said.

One thing the Journal doesn’t mention is advertising. With a staggered release, Apple can spend a month advertising only the iPhone XS and XS Max. Then come mid-October, promote the hell out of the iPhone XR. The iPhone XS ads I’ve seen — TV, print, billboards — focus entirely on the new gold finish and the fact that there are two sizes of the same phone. The tone is luxury — dark backgrounds, dramatic lighting. Just a guess but I’ll bet the colorful lineup of iPhone XR models gets a more playful ad campaign.

I have no idea what’s really going on, how much of this is deliberate on Apple’s part and how much is the result of actual production problems. For all I know Apple really did want to get the XR into stores last week, alongside the XS. But marketing-wise that doesn’t make much sense. A staggered release gives both the XS and XR time in the spotlight.

(And the XR deserves a big ad campaign. It’s not last year’s phone at a lower price. It’s an all-new iPhone with cutting edge specs and features and an all-new design.)

Ben Brooks: Mobile Safari Content Blocker Evaluations, September 2018 

Ben Brooks:

I ran another round of content blocker testing for Mobile Safari in order to take a look at which ones are the “best” right now. To be fair: it’s really hard to find these content blockers on the App Store now, so I grabbed the ones which looked the most popular to me (top lists, and top search results) and then did the testing to see which was the best.

Now, I am using a particular word choice here: best. In the past I mostly evaluated on speed or website size reductions. This was problematic because a content blocker could work out to be very fast, while still breaking the usability of the site.

I love his subjective focus on “best”, and agree with his conclusions. Firefox Focus is an interesting option because it acts both as a system-wide Safari content blocker and as a standalone always-private web browser app. No special private or incognito mode — it’s always private, with no saved cookies, no history, etc.

I’d love to see someone do a survey of the field for Mac content blockers. (Brooks is all-in on iOS and doesn’t use a Mac any more.)

Fun Intro to Siri Shortcuts 

Neat 15-minute intro to iOS 12’s Siri Shortcuts by Quinn Nelson. I haven’t really dug into iOS 12’s Shortcuts yet, but this video got me more excited about it than I expected.

Dear Young People: ‘Don’t Vote’ 

I love this ad. Share it far and wide.

Slate: ‘Apple News Is Giving the Media Everything It Wants — Except Money’ 

Will Oremus, writing for Slate:

Launched to rather tepid fanfare three years ago, Apple’s mobile news app has recently surged in popularity and influence, if publishers’ traffic figures are any indication. Sources at several news outlets say they’ve seen their audience on Apple News multiply in 2018 alone. Some now say it has become one of their top traffic sources, alongside Facebook and Google. At Slate, which disclosed its data for this story, page views on Apple News have roughly tripled since September 2017, and the app recently surpassed Facebook as a driver of readership. [...]

The Information reported in February that there were days when Vox got half of its daily traffic from Apple News. Business Insider reported in May that Vice’s Apple News traffic had more than doubled in the past year. Digiday reported in January that ABC News had more than 400,000 people signed up for its alerts on Apple News.

Mother Jones, meanwhile, has seen a 400 percent leap in Apple News audience since last September, said Ben Dreyfuss, its editorial director for growth and strategy. The spike began in the first few months of 2018, he added, when readership doubled in consecutive months.

The catch: no one seems to be making any money from this traffic.

WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton on Why He Left $850 Million Behind to Leave Facebook Early 

Parmy Olson, writing for Forbes:

For his part, Acton had proposed monetizing WhatsApp through a metered-user model, charging, say, a tenth of a penny after a certain large number of free messages were used up. “You build it once, it runs everywhere in every country,” Acton says. “You don’t need a sophisticated sales force. It’s a very simple business.”

Acton’s plan was shot down by Sandberg. “Her words were ‘It won’t scale.’”

“I called her out one time,” says Acton, who sensed there might be greed at play. “I was like, ‘No, you don’t mean that it won’t scale. You mean it won’t make as much money as... ,’ and she kind of hemmed and hawed a little. And we moved on.” [...]

When Acton reached Zuckerberg’s office, a Facebook lawyer was present. Acton made clear that the disagreement — Facebook wanted to make money through ads, and he wanted to make it from high-volume users — meant he could get his full allocation of stock. Facebook’s legal team disagreed, saying that WhatsApp had only been exploring monetization initiatives, not “implementing” them. Zuckerberg, for his part, had a simple message: “He was like, This is probably the last time you’ll ever talk to me.”

Sounds like a delightful place to work.

Qualcomm Says Apple Gave Its Trade Secrets to Intel 

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios:

The most high-stakes legal battle in tech just got even juicier. In court documents, Qualcomm says new evidence shows Apple made improper use of its modem technology to help Qualcomm rival Intel develop a more competitive alternative. [...]

In the new filings, Qualcomm says that, at Apple’s request, it allowed the iPhone maker deep access to its software and tools, but with strict limits on how those products could be used. Rather than just use it to improve the performance and functioning of Qualcomm chips, the company alleges that Apple used it to understand how the modem works and to help Intel improve their chips.

That’s a serious accusation. They’re accusing Apple of theft.

Hodinkee Radio: Apple and the Future of Watchmaking 

There are two parts to this episode of the Hodinkee Radio podcast. First, a roundtable discussion with Ben Clymer, Jack Forster, and Stephen Pulvirent. Then, an interview between Pulvirent and yours truly. Both parts, of course, focus on Apple Watch Series 4 and where Apple fits in the world of watchmaking.

See also: Pulvirent’s excellent Series 4 review.

Instagram’s CEO 

Ben Thompson has the take of the day on Instagram, in the wake of last night’s news that co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are leaving:

Controlling one’s own destiny, though, takes more than product or popularity. It takes money, which is to say it takes building a company, working business model and all. That is why I mark April 9, 2012, as the day yesterday became inevitable. Letting Facebook build the business may have made Systrom and Krieger rich and freed them to focus on product, but it made Zuckerberg the true CEO, and always, inevitably, CEOs call the shots.

See also: Similar thoughts from Om Malik.

NYT: ‘Instagram’s Co-Founders Said to Step Down From Company’ 

Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of the photo-sharing app Instagram, have resigned and plan to leave the company in coming weeks, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The exits add to the challenges facing Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.

Mr. Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive, and Mr. Krieger, the chief technical officer, notified Instagram’s leadership team and Facebook on Monday of their decision to leave, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Systrom has guided Instagram’s design and experience all along. This isn’t one of those cases where these two had mentally checked out long ago and are now just making it official — it’s a big deal for Instagram. Interesting, too, that they’re leaving together.

The Talk Show: ‘Flabbergasting’ 

Nilay Patel returns to the show to talk about the iPhone XS and XS Max. We got so caught up talking about cameras, we never even mention headphone jacks.

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Austin Mann’s iPhone XS Camera Review: Zanzibar 

Austin Mann:

Most of the time my expectations for camera upgrades on “S” years aren’t so high, but after shooting with the iPhone XS for a week, I can confidently say it’s a huge camera upgrade. There’s a lot of little improvements, but Smart HDR definitely takes the cake. This is a feature and technology that improves virtually everything you capture with your iPhone camera. I think you’ll be really thrilled when you experience the results yourself.

AirPower References in iOS 12.1 Code Suggest Continuing Development 

Guilherme Rambo, writing for 9to5Mac:

However, new evidence from the iPhone XS and iOS 12.1 suggests that, while it may be delayed, development of AirPower continues. Looking into iOS 12.1, we noticed that the component of iOS responsible for managing the charging interface that appears when using AirPower has been updated, which means that Apple is still actively working on the project.

Furthermore, a picture of the “getting started guide” that comes packaged with the iPhone XS clearly mentions AirPower. “Place iPhone with screen facing up on AirPower or a Qi-certified wireless charger,” it reads. The image was shared on Twitter by Gavin Stephens.

If Apple was planning on cancelling the project altogether, then it would definitely not be mentioning it in the packaging of the brand new devices.

This is good news. Makes me wonder though, if AirPower is going to debut this year, when? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to announce it on stage at an October event for new MacBooks and iPads, because neither of those products will charge inductively. But I guess they could do it alongside the promised new AirPods case.

My other thought: maybe Apple has no plans to talk about AirPower on stage at any event, and they’re just going to release it for sale when it’s ready. They might not want to talk about it because they don’t want to acknowledge — or ignore — the fact that it’s so late.

‘By a Captain, He’s No Captain’ 

Frederic Raphael, who co-wrote the screenplay for Eyes Wide Shut, responding to Nathan Abrams’s new book on Kubrick:

While conning Abrams’s volume, I discovered, not greatly to my chagrin, that I am the sole villain of the piece. Abrams calls me “self-serving” and “unreliable” in my accounts of my working and personal relationship with Stanley. He insinuates that I had less to do with Eyes Wide Shut than I pretend and that Stanley regretted my involvement. It is hard for him to deny (but convenient to omit) that, after trying for some 30 years to get a succession of writers to “crack” how to do Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, Kubrick greeted my first draft with “I’m absolutely thrilled.” A source whose anonymity I respect told me that he had never seen Stanley so happy since the day he received his first royalty check (for $5 million) for 2001. No matter.

Colin Kaepernick Is Nike’s $6 Billion Man 

Kate Gibson, writing for CBS MoneyWatch:

The heat Nike has taken over its controversial advertising campaign featuring former NFL star Colin Kaepernick seems to have had another effect: burnishing the iconic brand’s appeal to investors.

Nike shares have surged 36 percent on the year, making the company the top performer on the Dow’s index of 30 blue-chip stocks. The run-up includes a nearly 5 percent increase since Nike’s Labor Day announcement that Kaepernick would be featured in its campaign, adding nearly $6 billion to the company’s market value.

The stock continues to hover near an all-time high, which it reached in mid-September only weeks after some Nike customers publicly burned their shoes to express their displeasure at the new ad.

Apple and Salesforce Announce iOS Strategic Partnership 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple and Salesforce today announced a strategic partnership that brings together the number one customer relationship management platform and iOS, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, enabling powerful new mobile apps for business. Working with Apple, Salesforce is redesigning its app to embrace the native mobile platform with exclusive new features on iOS. The companies will also provide tools and resources for millions of Salesforce developers to build their own native apps with a new Salesforce Mobile SDK for iOS, and a new iOS app development course on Trailhead, Salesforce’s free, web-based learning platform.

I don’t really know what this means, to be honest, but I do remember being deeply skeptical back in 2008 when Apple announced a bunch of “enterprise” related features for the then-new iPhone 3G. “Apple” and “enterprise” were just words that didn’t go together — until they did. Back then Microsoft, IBM, and Intel more or less ruled the enterprise market unchallenged. Apple has inexorably grown into this market as mobile has taken over the device landscape.

See also: This Reuters interview with Tim Cook and Marc Benioff indicates that a large part of this partnership is about Siri integration, which is also interesting.

SiriusXM Is Buying Pandora in $3.5 Billion Deal 

Seems like a lot of money to me.

WSJ: Apple Shying Away From R-Rated Original Content 

Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint, reporting for the WSJ:

Tim Cook sat down more than a year ago to watch Apple Inc.’s first scripted drama, “Vital Signs,” and was troubled by what he saw. The show, a dark, semi-biographical tale of hip hop artist Dr. Dre, featured characters doing lines of cocaine, an extended orgy in a mansion and drawn guns.

It’s too violent, Mr. Cook told Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine, said people familiar with Apple’s entertainment plans. Apple can’t show this. [...]

Apple’s entertainment team must walk a line few in Hollywood would consider. Since Mr. Cook spiked “Vital Signs,” Apple has made clear, say producers and agents, that it wants high-quality shows with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex, profanity or violence.

I’ve been curious about exactly this point ever since Apple began this. What’s the difference, though, between R-rated original content produced by Apple and R-rated content produced by others that Apple sells in the iTunes Store? Mickle and Flint point out that even Disney is producing raunchy movies like the Deadpool series.

And how in the world did Vital Signs go the distance into production without knowing where the red line was? Shouldn’t this have been flagged when it was just a screenplay? It really does seem like the Eddy/Jimmy content team is an island within the company. I actually hope there’s some sort of misunderstanding in the sourcing for this story, and that they didn’t really shoot a pilot (or a whole season?) only to throw it away.

Ingage Instants 

My thanks to Ingage for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Instants is a new iPhone app to help anyone (especially businesses) make social media content with stylish motion graphics. It was just featured in the App Store in “New Apps We Love” and was made by a team with some ex-Apple folks and die-hard Mac and iOS nerds. You can really feel the care and attention that went into the experience design. Instants has a terrific user interface. They’re featured on Product Hunt today, and I’m sure they’d appreciate some upvotes from DF readers.

Download Instants from the App Store, and be sure to check out the “Moore” theme, inspired by the opening credits of a spy movie series near and dear to my heart.

iPhone XS / iPhone X Camera Comparison 

As promised, here’s a selection of photos and videos taken with iPhone XS and iPhone X side-by-side. The low-light video clips are just amazing. And audio quality is remarkably better in all video.

Cary Joji Fukunaga to Direct the Next James Bond Movie 

Henry Chu, reporting for Variety:

Cary Joji Fukunaga will direct the new James Bond film, the producers announced Thursday. The 25th Bond installment will begin filming in London, at Pinewood Studios, on March 4, 2019, with a worldwide release on Feb. 14, 2020, a few months after its original target date.

Fukunaga, who won acclaim for 2015 war film “Beasts of No Nation,” replaces Danny Boyle, who exited the project last month over creative differences with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and returning star Daniel Craig. Fukunaga will be the Bond franchise’s first American director. [...]

Fukunaga won an Emmy in 2014 for helming the entire first season (eight episodes) of “True Detective” and giving the crime series a cinematic look. More recently, he directed multiple episodes of Netflix’s “Maniac,” a new half-hour comedy show starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill.

I’m usually not an OMG guy but I just used “OMG” when I texted this news to a friend. I’m just floored by this. Season 1 of True Detective is one of my very favorite cinematic achievements of the decade, right up there with Mad Men, The Tree of Life, and Django Unchained. I’ll add Inception to make it a top 5 list.

Without spoiling anything from True Detective, can you imagine a Bond scene as intense and gritty as the six-minute-long tracking shot scene from episode 4? Fukunaga is exactly what the Bond franchise needs after the all-style/no-sense Skyfall/Spectre duology from Sam Mendes.

(And I’m glad to see EON break their heretofore unwritten rule that Americans couldn’t direct Bond movies. Steven Spielberg wanted to — and because EON turned him down, he and George Lucas turned the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom into a Bond movie opening.)

Short Film by Jon M. Chu Shot Handheld With iPhone XS Max 


To test the new hardware, we gave an iPhone XS Max to the film director Jon M. Chu. The Crazy Rich Asians director shot a short film for Wired, and the results are truly special.

“I had literally zero equipment,” says Chu. “I see a lot of samples of iPhone videos, and sometimes they use different lenses or professional lights. I didn’t have any of that.”

Chu shot the film — a view into dancer Luigi Rosado’s rehearsal space, titled Somewhere — in 4K using the iPhone’s native camera app. It was all shot handheld using the phone’s default stabilizing system. And while he edited the video on a computer, Chu didn’t apply any color correction or any post-production tricks. What you’re seeing is the default output of the iPhone’s camera.

Chu is, of course, a masterful filmmaker. He could make a great movie with an iPhone 3GS. But it’s fascinating to see the potential of the XS camera. This is just a gorgeous film. And it doesn’t just show off the image quality and slow motion capabilities — it really shows off the stabilization. When you watch the tracking shot at the end keep in mind he wasn’t using a gimbal — it was truly handheld.

The democratization of professional quality video cameras for filmmaking is one of the great technical achievements of the last two decades. 20 years ago you’d have had to spend thousands of dollars on film to make a short movie that looks this good. Now you just need your iPhone.

Hodinkee: ‘How Apple’s Awesome Motion Watch Faces Are Made’ 

Stephen Pulvirent, Hodinkee:

Apple isn’t exactly a company known for offering frequent peeks behind the proverbial curtain. Having just reviewed the new Apple Watch Series 4, getting to see how Apple made the incredible “motion faces” (the vapor, fire/water, etc.) feels like an extra treat. Getting this kind of perspective though shows just how dedicated the team over there is to nailing the details — Apple took something that seems relatively basic at first and pursued it to its logical conclusion, giving us something awesome in the process.

“We probably could have done this digitally, but we actually shot all of this practically in a studio” says Alan Dye, Apple Vice President of User Interface Design, of the motion faces. “What I love about the fact that we did this is that it’s just so indicative of how the design team works. It was really about bringing together some of our various talents to create these faces. There are of course art directors, and color experts, and graphic designers, but also model makers who helped build these structures that we would eventually, you know, set on fire.”

I saw some of this footage last week after the Apple event. So cool. I love that they built molds in the shape of the new Series 4 displays. I could watch an hour of this footage.

Senator Ron Wyden: U.S. Senate, Staff Targeted by State-Backed Hackers 

Frank Bajak and Raphael Satter

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Wednesday letter to Senate leaders that his office discovered that “at least one major technology company” has warned an unspecified number of senators and aides that their personal email accounts were “targeted by foreign government hackers.” Similar methods were employed by Russian military agents who leaked the contents of private email inboxes to influence the 2016 elections.

Wyden did not specify the timing of the notifications, but a Senate staffer said they occurred “in the last few weeks or months.” The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

But the senator said the Office of the Sergeant at Arms , which oversees Senate security, informed legislators and staffers that it has no authority to help secure personal, rather than official, accounts.

I’m going to guess the “major technology company” is Google, simply because Gmail is the leading email provider. If you ever wonder why Ron Wyden seems almost amazingly well-informed on very technical computer security matters, keep in mind that Christopher Soghoian is on his staff as a senior advisor.

Correction Regarding Editing the Bokeh Depth of Field in iPhone XS Portrait Mode Shots on Other Devices 

In my iPhone XS review yesterday, I incorrectly stated that the “f-stop” editing for Portrait Mode shots could only be done on an iPhone XS. I was wrong, but it wasn’t too dumb of a mistake. Go read my update, and if you read my review yesterday soon after I published it, make sure you’ve seen footnote 5.

Former White House Photographer Pete Souza Releases the First Pictures Taken Using iPhone XS 

The Daily Mail:

Former White House Photographer Pete Souza has released the first images taken using the new phone, showing off its new camera capabilities. He took these shots exclusively for around Washington DC, and any editing was done on the phone using Apple’s tools.

“Smart phones have turned everyone into a photographer but they haven’t necessarily turned everyone into a ‘good’ photographer,” he told “At the same time, the smart phone has also turned everyone into a visual journalist giving us at times an eyewitness account from breaking news events.”

Inspiring images. (Via Shawn King at The Loop.)

Safari Now Supports Favicons on Both MacOS and iOS 

My favorite new feature today, of course, is the ability to show website favicons in Safari tabs — a feature now available in Safari 12 and iOS 12. They’re off by default, but the way they work on Mac, iPad, and iPhone is just perfect.

I heard from a lot of DF readers earlier this year who said they use Chrome instead of Safari just for favicons in tabs — if you’re in that boat, I highly encourage you to give Safari a try. Your MacBook battery will thank you for it.

I probably should’ve used a finally in the headline for this item.

iOS 12 Highlights 

Ricky Mondello on Twitter:

Big day! iOS 12 is out! I hope y’all love it.

I’m going to highlight a few iCloud Keychain, Safari, and WebKit features and improvements that mean a lot to me.

This thread is a terrific collection of little things here and there. I’ve been running iOS 12 betas full-time since mid-July and I learned a bunch of things just from this thread.

Marc Benioff and Wife Buy Time Magazine for $190 Million 

Martin Crutsinger, reporting for the AP:

Time Magazine is being sold by Meredith Corp. to Marc Benioff, a co-founder of Salesforce, and his wife, it was announced Sunday. [...]

The Benioffs are purchasing Time personally, and the transaction is unrelated to, where Benioff is chairman and co-CEO and co-founder. The announcement by Meredith said that the Benioffs would not be involved in the day-to-day operations or journalistic decisions at Time. Those decisions will continue to be made by Time’s current executive leadership team, the announcement said.

Sounds like a great landing spot for a great magazine. Hopefully it works as well for Time as Jeff Bezos’s acquisition has for The Washington Post.

An Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop 

Absolutely fantastic piece assembled by Steven Levy for Wired:

Twenty-five years ago, the computer revolution’s marquee company was in decline. Back then, it was just settling into shiny new headquarters, a campus of six buildings that formed a different kind of ring. Called Infinite Loop, the name is a reference to a well-known programming error — code that gets stuck in an endless repetition — though no one seems to know who applied it. Infinite Loop was the place where Apple’s leaders and engineers pulled off a historic turnaround, and it will always be the source of stories and legends — many of them untold. Until now.

There’s so much quotable stuff in here. Here’s just one, which I’ve heard before but which still made me laugh out out reading it again:

Forstall: Whenever I ate with Steve, he insisted on paying for me, which I thought was a little odd. Even if we went in together and he selected something quick like pre-made sushi, and I ordered a pizza in the wood-burning pizza oven, he would wait for me at the cash register for 10, 15 minutes. I felt so awkward. Finally, I told him. “Seriously, I can pay for myself, so please don’t stand there and wait for me.” He said, “Scott, you don’t understand. You know how we pay by swiping your badge and then it’s deducted from your salary? I only get paid a dollar a year! Every time I swipe we get a free meal!” Here was this multibillionaire putting one over on the company he founded, a few dollars at a time.

As my friend John Siracusa quipped in a Slack group, “This is the most Steve Jobs quote ever.” Jobs enjoyed pulling one over on The Man even after he became The Man. That free lunch scam delighted him the way free long distance phone calls did with Woz and their blue boxes.

This whole history is simply terrific. Do not miss it. (That story from Tim Cook about the meeting with Gateway — oh my god.)

Sonny Dickson on What Went Wrong With AirPower 

Sonny Dickson:

We have managed to obtain several pieces of exclusive information that shed some light on what challenges Apple is currently facing with the project. According to our sources, the broad feeling of many working the project at Apple is that the device may be doomed to failure, and may not be viable at all unless significant advancements can be made.

More details than what I’ve heard, but very much along the same lines. Todd Haselton at CNBC picked this up following Dickson’s report, and now it’s a bit of a news firestorm.

I’ll just emphasize that what I’ve written about AirPower’s problems is all filed under “this is what I’ve heard from people I trust, but none of them are directly involved”. My report is not filed under “this is what I can state as fact happened or is happening”. I literally wrote “what I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies”.

I’ll add one new thing. After I published what I’ve heard, a wise and knowledgeable little birdie told me that it’s not at all uncommon for a project at Apple to have massive resets multiple times. [Cough, Titan.] What is unusual regarding AirPower is that it’s happened in the open, for the world to see. That is to say, the real mistake may not be a flawed coil design or whatever, but rather the decision to announce it when they did, before those problems were solved.

Linus Torvalds: ‘I Need to Change Some of My Behavior, and I Want to Apologize to the People That My Personal Behavior Hurt’ 

Linus Torvalds, announcing that he’s taking a break from Linux kernel development:

This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don’t realize (for years) how badly I’ve judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good.

This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.

The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely.

I find this both encouraging and inspiring — a counter to the notion that people can’t change. Here’s just one example of Torvalds’s infamous style, which until now he was unapologetic about.


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FEMA to Test ‘Presidential Alert’ System Next Week 

NBC News:

“The EAS [Emergency Alert System] is a national public warning system that provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency,” FEMA said.

The test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert,” according to the agency. Users whose phones are on will twice hear a tone and vibration and then see an English-only (for now) message: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” [...]

FEMA stated that the government cannot track end users’ location through this alert system. The test is supposed to take place at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20.

Under the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, cellphone users cannot opt out of the presidential alerts.

I’m sure Trump would never abuse this.

Is the iPhone XS Max 512 GB Expensive? 

Not compared to a MacBook Pro. Interesting comparison.

Mary Meeker Is Leaving Kleiner Perkins, Starting New Firm 

Theodore Schleifer, reporting for Recode:

Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the premier Silicon Valley investors at one of its premier venture capital firms, is leaving her position in an abrupt, high-profile splitting of the firm she helped lead.

Meeker is leading an exodus of late-stage investors from Kleiner Perkins in its most dramatic shake-up since legendary investor John Doerr stepped back from his role more than two years ago. Meeker’s exit — she, along with three of her partners, will form a new firm — will undoubtedly deal a hard blow to Kleiner Perkins, given her high profile in the business community and her stature as by far the most senior woman in venture capital.

Here’s how you know this is a huge deal:

“I don’t think it’s a huge deal,” Ted Schlein, who succeeded Doerr as the de facto head of the firm, said in an interview.

AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra on Competing With Apple Watch Series 4 

Kif Leswing, writing for Business Insider:

Over at the headquarters of AliveCor, a startup based in Google’s hometown of Mountain View, they, too, were surprised by the announcement, CEO Vic Gundotra said in a phone interview on Thursday. Gundotra is a former Googler, widely known as the executive behind the Google+ social network. [...]

The fact that a huge tech giant is entering their corner of health-tech validates AliveCor’s approach, Gundotra said. [...]

“Ours is $99, theirs is $399, our sales popped yesterday, big time,” he said.

“Their entry into our market validates us” and “Our sales are popping” translate into English as “They’re going to crush us.” Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

And this price comparison is prima facie nutso. $99 gets you a single-purpose no-fun ECG device. $399 gets you a watch you can wear all day every day and use for dozens of purposes other than ECG.

How the Weather Channel Made an Immersive Hurricane Florence Storm Surge Animation 

Brian Barrett, writing for Wired:

On one level, yes, the visualization literally just shows what three, six, and nine feet of water looks like. But it’s showing that in a context most people have never experienced. It fills in the gaps of your imagination, and hopefully underscores for anyone in a flood zone all the reasons they should not be.

Perfect example of how showing something can be tremendously more effective than merely saying something.

Larry Page Is a No-Show With Google Under a Harsh Spotlight 

Mark Bergen and Austin Carr, writing for Businessweek:

It’s not just Washington. Even in Silicon Valley, people have started wondering: Where’s Larry? Page has long been reclusive, a computer scientist who pondered technical problems away from the public eye, preferring to chase moonshots over magazine covers. Unlike founder-CEO peers (Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind), he hasn’t presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn’t done press since 2015. He leaves day-to-day decisions to Pichai and a handful of advisers. But a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who’s more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he’s still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today. “What I didn’t see in the last year was a strong central voice about how [Google’s] going to operate on these issues that are societal and less technical,” says a longtime executive who recently left the company.

Fascinating look inside Google’s leadership. Really does seem like they’re out of touch. Their tremendous profits are all coming from things that Page isn’t paying any attention to at all. Presumably Sundar Pichai is paying attention to them, but it’s certainly an unusual arrangement.

In Page’s absence at the Senate hearing, louder voices filled the void, from senators criticizing Google for its dealings with China to pundits decrying Page as unpatriotic. McNamee, the early investor who’s since advocated for the company’s breakup, says Page and Pichai shirked their civic duty by skipping the hearing. “This is Corporate Governance 101,” he says. “You’ve been invited to speak in front of a Senate hearing to protect our democracy, and your response is, ‘We’re too important to go’? The whole world is looking at them: ‘What the hell is wrong with you people? Who are you?’ ”

That empty chair was just an awful image for Google.

AirPower Scrubbed From 

Peter Cao, 9to5Mac:

While Apple made no mention of AirPower during today’s event, it looks like Apple may be launching AirPower later in 2018 than originally anticipated.

Apple has seemingly updated its website today, removing all mentions of AirPower except in one place. Looking at the AirPods product page, Apple mentions the optional wireless charging case, noting that it is currently unavailable. The charging case is placed on what appears to be the AirPower mat, along with the iPhone X.

So there’s a picture of an AirPower mat, but the word “AirPower” is nowhere to be found. No one from Apple I’ve spoken to today will say a word about AirPower other than that they have nothing to say about it today. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been scrapped, and they just don’t want to say so yet.

108-Second Recap of Today’s Apple Event 

Apple did something like this last year — it’s a lot of fun if you weren’t following along live and just want the highlights.

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR Names Revealed in Apple Products Sitemap 

Who even cares about a sitemap anymore (search engines maybe?) — and why in the world would Apple’s process for publishing this file include even a chance that it would go live before the event?

ATH only notes the iPhone names, but The Verge noticed that updated Apple Watch bands are in new sizes, 40 and 44 mm, which suggests they’re not compatible with existing Apple Watches.

Update: Good news: the strap lugs are unchanged. All old bands fit the new watches, and new bands fit old watches.

Amazon Delivery Drivers Reveal Claims of Disturbing Work Conditions 

Hayley Peterson, reporting for Business Insider:

Zachariah Vargas was six hours into his shift delivering packages for Amazon. He was about to drop off a package when he accidentally slammed the door of his truck on his hand. The door clicked shut, trapping his middle and ring fingers.

Once he freed his fingers, the blood began to pour. Both of Vargas’ arms started to shake involuntarily. The lacerations were deep. Vargas thought he glimpsed bone when he wiped away the blood.

Panicked, Vargas called his dispatch supervisor, who was working at a nearby Amazon facility. He said he received no sympathy. “The first thing they asked was, ‘How many packages do you have left?’” he told Business Insider.

Vargas had dozens remaining. Delivering them all would take several hours. Still, his supervisor advised him to drop them all off before returning to the station or seeking care.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as free shipping.

Amazon Is Stuffing Its Search Results Pages With Ads 

Rani Molla, writing for Recode:

If it feels as though Amazon’s site is increasingly stuffed with ads, that’s because it is. And it looks like that’s working — at least for brands that are willing to fork over ad dollars as part of their strategy to sell on Amazon.

Amazon-sponsored product ads have been around since 2012. But lately, as the company has invested in growing its advertising business, they’ve become more aggressive.

Paid placement isn’t new to retail. It’s a genuine racket how items gets placed on shelves in grocery stores. But there’s something that feels a bit unseemly about this.

Creative Selection 

My thanks to Ken Kocienda for sponsoring this week at DF for his new book Creative Selection. How does Apple’s creative process work? This is your look inside. It’s truly an amazing and unprecedented book. If you haven’t already, just buy it.

Kuo: USB-C to Replace Lightning on 2018 iPad Pro 

Ming-Chi Kuo:

In addition to Face ID support, we expect the new iPad Pro models’ main upgrade to include replacing Lightning with a USB-C interface and bundling with a new unibody design 18W power adapter, which cancels the removable plug design.

I would find this a bit surprising, but nowhere near as shocking as if they moved iPhones to USB-C. On the one hand, Apple is positioning iPad Pros as alternatives to laptops, so a USB-C port makes sense for connecting peripherals. But if the rumors are true that this year’s iPad Pros don’t have headphone jacks, this doesn’t make much sense at all. This would mean someone with a Mac, iPhone, and iPad would need three different headphone adapters.

Update: Lots of people are pointing to the obvious: AirPods. I love my AirPods. I get it. But there has to be a wired headphone story too. There’s a reason why MacBooks still have a headphone jack. And here’s another question: what about Apple Pencil? They could make a USB-C version, but why splinter that market? What’s the advantage to switching to USB-C?

Apple Has Permanently Banned Alex Jones’ Infowars App From the App Store 

John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel, reporting for BuzzFeed:

A day after being banned from Twitter, Alex Jones and Infowars have been booted from yet another platform: Apple’s popular App Store. As of Friday evening, searches on the App Store for Infowars return no results.

Apple confirmed the app’s removal to BuzzFeed News, but declined to comment, pointing to its App Store Review Guidelines. The company said Infowars would not be permitted to return to the App Store.

Popper’s paradox:

The paradox of tolerance was described by Karl Popper in 1945. The paradox states that if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Popper came to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.

The Information Profiles Eddy Cue 

Aaron Tilley, writing for The Information (paywalled, alas; here’s MacRumors’s summary)

During meetings, Mr. Cue is sometimes known to fall silent, shut his eyes and tilt his head back, leaving other participants to wonder whether he is staring at the ceiling or sleeping, said several former Apple employees and one outside partner present on multiple occasions when it happened over the past few years. In at least two of these situations, Mr. Cue began snoring, one source said. [...]

From the moment he gained responsibility for Siri, Mr. Cue seemed to lack much interest in it, according to people who worked on the project. When Siri team members presented Mr. Cue with technical data around the performance of the assistant — an area of frequent criticism of the technology — Mr. Cue appeared bored and seemed to fall asleep in at least two meetings, said a former Apple employee who was present.

I’ve heard some really good Eddy Cue stories over the years, but this falling asleep thing is a new one.

Also, I thought this was interesting:

Apple has improved Apple Maps since its troubled launch, boasting that the service is more popular on iPhones and iPads, on which it comes pre-installed, than Google Maps. But Google Maps still reaches more users because of the larger global audience of Android devices, and the quality of Google Maps often comes out ahead in independent evaluations.

One such evaluation was a blog post last year by the cartographer Justin O’Beirne, which chronicled in exhaustive detail the richer detail available on Google Maps. The post appeared to rattle Mr. Cue, who ordered changes to Apple Maps to satisfy internal concerns related to the blog post, said a former Apple employee. In June, Mr. Cue publicly promised further improvements to the service. Some observers believe Apple Maps faces a disadvantage as long as the company restricts it to Apple devices.

Bizarre to me that The Information didn’t even link to O’Beirne’s work. It’s good to know it caught Cue’s attention.

Shocker: AnandTech Catches Huawei and Honor Cheating on Benchmarks 

Ian Cutress and Andrei Frumusanu, writing for AnandTech:

We did approach Huawei about this during the IFA show last week, and obtained a few comments worth putting here. Another element to the story is that Huawei’s new benchmark behavior very much exceeds anything we’ve seen in the past. We use custom editions of our benchmarks (from their respective developers) so we can test with this “detection” on and off, and the massive differences in performance between the publicly available benchmarks and the internal versions that we’re using for testing is absolutely astonishing.

As usual with investigations like this, we offered Huawei an opportunity to respond. We met with Dr. Wang Chenglu, President of Software at Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, at IFA to discuss this issue, which is purely a software play from Huawei. [...]

He states that it is much better than it used to be, and that Huawei “wants to come together with others in China to find the best verification benchmark for user experience”. He also states that “in the Android ecosystem, other manufacturers also mislead with their numbers”, citing one specific popular smartphone manufacturer in China as the biggest culprit, and that it is becoming “common practice in China”. Huawei wants to open up to consumers, but have trouble when competitors continually post unrealistic scores.

In other words, he’s defending Huawei’s cheating because China is full of cheats. You have to love that “in the Android ecosystem” hedge too.

Burt Reynolds Dead at 82 

Vastly underrated as an actor. You just can’t have this many hits without being great. My favorite of his films, of course, was Boogie Nights, in which he was brilliant.

David Frum on the Trump Administration’s Anonymous Resistance 

I wrote the previous two items before reading this David Frum piece for The Atlantic:

Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees — now that’s a constitutional crisis.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution — and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.

My thoughts exactly. If he’s unfit for office, say so. Resign and call for impeachment or stay and invoke the 25th Amendment.

Bob Woodward’s New Book Reveals a ‘Nervous Breakdown’ of Trump’s Presidency 

The Washington Post, with highlights from Bob Woodward’s Fear, which comes out next week:

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.

Cohn made a similar play to prevent Trump from pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, something the president has long threatened to do. [...] Under orders from the president, Porter drafted a notification letter withdrawing from NAFTA. But he and other advisers worried that it could trigger an economic and foreign relations crisis. So Porter consulted Cohn, who told him, according to Woodward: “I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis ignores him too:

After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.

These officials get away with disregarding Trump’s orders — with literally stealing letters off his desk — because Trump is a nitwit. He’s just dumb. His own lawyer thinks he’s an idiot:

Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”

“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.

Later that month, Dowd told Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

When Trump was elected I wrote that “Trump voters are ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools.” Everything that’s gone so horribly awry with his presidency was easily predictable. Anyone who still supports him today must be at least two out of three.

Anonymous Senior Administration Official Writes NYT Op-Ed 

The New York Times:

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.

The senior administration official:

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Rather than invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office, they simply try to ignore him. As extraordinary and controversial as it would be to remove him from office, I think that would set a good precedent: that the Cabinet should and will remove a president who is mentally unfit for the job. By ignoring his orders, they’re setting a terrible precedent — that the president isn’t necessarily in charge of the Executive Branch.

Update: The more I think about this piece, the more angry I get. Fuck this person. Stand up and say this under your own name.

From the Department of Old News: Apple Replaces 29W USB-C Power Adapter With New 30W Version 

I missed this back in June: Apple’s 29-watt USB-C charger is now a 30-watt charger. Not a big deal, but for some reason I found it confusing when I tried to buy a 29-watt charger the other day and couldn’t find it.

The reason to care: this is the only Apple-branded charger that can charge a recent iPad or iPhone at top speed (other than the even more expensive USB-C MacBook chargers).

The Talk Show: ‘iPhone 🍸’ 

Rene Ritchie returns to the show for a deep dive into what was revealed (and what wasn’t) by Guilherme Rambo’s release last week of product marketing images of the apparently-named iPhone XS and Series 4 Apple Watch.

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‘Haters to the Side’ Indeed 

[Whoops: Fixed the missing main URL link. Sorry about that.]

Speaking of Josh Topolsky-helmed publications and controversial designs, it hasn’t taken long for this 2015 piece at Wired to age poorly (headline: “Haters to the Side: Bloomberg’s Loud Redesign Heralds the Future of Web News”):

Not everyone loves the new Bloomberg Business site. On Twitter, pundits have pilloried it, saying it looks like “Instagram filters on acid,” and, more simply, “I don’t like it.” Marc Andreessen knocked it, and Venturebeat says it “pulls you in as much as it spits in your eye.”

Josh Topolsky, editor of Bloomberg Digital and the man who spearheaded this new look and strategy, is undeterred. He has a bigger vision for what the future of news design can be. “If you look at most news sites you see a basic formatting, that’s really based on traditional newspaper design,” he says. Or, readers get their news from feeds like Twitter and Facebook, where it’s “presented in rapid fire in headline after headline.”

Since leaving The Verge this past July to join Bloomberg, Topolsky and design agency Code and Theory have been working on a kaleidoscopic, modular web design for the news organization that corrals all of Bloomberg’s media properties — Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg TV, and Bloomberg Graphics — under one roof, and relies neither on a gridded layout nor a feed. “What drives me insane in modern web design is grids,” Topolsky says. “What’s important is a page that moves.”

Virtually nothing from that redesign remains at Bloomberg, which now sports very readable article pages and a grid-based homepage.

More Layoffs at The Outline, Months After $5M Funding Round 

John Bonazzo, reporting for The Observer:

A source told Observer that the cuts included two staff writers, two front-end developers, an executive assistant and a revenue associate.

The laid-off staffers were notified in a series of early morning meetings that were scheduled last night. The remaining revenue staff is also taking pay cuts.

The source also noted that The Outline plans to slash its freelance budget despite the dearth of staff writers. The site will likely move from its current Lower East Side office to an undisclosed WeWork location.

Needless to say, fewer staff writers and a reduced freelancer budget are a bad combination. There’s been some great work at The Outline, and I’m always disheartened to hear of good publications struggling financially. But I can’t help but wonder whether The Outline would be doing better if its design weren’t so reader-hostile. Their regular articles still use those squiggly animated horizontal and vertical rules. They feel like some sort of eye test or challenge — “Can you read this text next to an animated squiggle?”

And they have irregular articles that are just bizarrely designed. Casey Johnston — she of the MacBook Pro keyboard saga fame — is my favorite writer on The Outline staff. She recently wrote a story about two friends who were in a pool when it was struck by lightning. I found the story incredibly annoying to read — so much scrolling, so many blocks of all-caps text. Because it’s all done with shitty JavaScript, it doesn’t let you use the space bar to scroll. Think about that: the layout forces you to scroll frequently, but their implementation doesn’t let you scroll the easiest way. The only reason I stuck with the article was Johnston’s byline. If it had been a byline I didn’t recognize and admire I’d have closed the tab after 15 seconds or so.

Do I really think bad design is at the heart of The Outline’s financial struggles? No, I guess not. But good design surely wouldn’t hurt.

Evernote Lost Its CTO, CFO, CPO, and HR Head in the Last Month as It Eyes Another Fundraising Round 

Ingrid Lunden, reporting for TechCrunch:

Evernote, the productivity app with 225 million users that lets people take notes and organise other files from their working and non-work life, has been on a mission to reset its image as the go-to service for those seeking tools to help themselves be more efficient, years after losing its place as one of the most popular apps in the app store. But those changes have not come without their own challenges.

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that in the last month, Evernote lost several of its most senior executives, including its CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel and head of HR Michelle Wagner beyond the usual attrition of engineers and designers.

The departures are coming at a key time: we have also heard that Evernote is fundraising, potentially in a down-round from its most recent (but now several years-old) valuation of $1.2 billion.

I never took a liking to Evernote. Its origins as a Windows desktop app were always apparent. It had some interesting and powerful features (particularly OCR for signage in photographs — you can search for text in images) but a terrible interface. If you’re still using it, you should look into your export options.

Medium Deprecates Custom Domains Service 


Medium is no longer offering new custom domains as a feature. Instead, you can create a publication on Medium that will live on a URL.

I don’t understand why any publication, even a personal blog, would use Medium without a custom domain name. It’s not just about branding now, but about long-term sustainability. If you have your own domain name, you can keep old URLs working in perpetuity. I know many people love Medium’s editing interface, but I just can’t believe that so many writers and publications have turned toward a single centralized commercial entity as a proposed solution to what ails the publishing industry. There is tremendous strength in independence and decentralization.

Firefox to Start Blocking Bad Trackers by Default 

Nick Nguyen, writing for Mozilla’s company blog:

Tracking slows down the web. In a study by Ghostery, 55.4% of the total time required to load an average website was spent loading third party trackers. For users on slower networks the effect can be even worse.

Long page load times are detrimental to every user’s experience on the web. For that reason, we’ve added a new feature in Firefox Nightly that blocks trackers that slow down page loads. We will be testing this feature using a shield study in September. If we find that our approach performs well, we will start blocking slow-loading trackers by default in Firefox 63. [...]

In the physical world, users wouldn’t expect hundreds of vendors to follow them from store to store, spying on the products they look at or purchase. Users have the same expectations of privacy on the web, and yet in reality, they are tracked wherever they go. Most web browsers fail to help users get the level of privacy they expect and deserve.

In order to help give users the private web browsing experience they expect and deserve, Firefox will strip cookies and block storage access from third-party tracking content. We’ve already made this available for our Firefox Nightly users to try out, and will be running a shield study to test the experience with some of our beta users in September. We aim to bring this protection to all users in Firefox 65, and will continue to refine our approach to provide the strongest possible protection while preserving a smooth user experience.

Outstanding news. Back in the early 2000s, every web browser other than IE turned toward web standards. It painted IE as the bad player, and drove IE users to switch to Firefox and other standard-based browsers. I think the same thing is happening now with ad tracking, with Safari and Firefox leading the way. But this time it’s Chrome that is being painted as the bad guy. I hope Microsoft joins Apple and Mozilla in this trend.

I’d love to see Google join too, but I’m not holding my breath — they’re working in the opposite direction, bringing web-style tracking to physical retail.

Nike Re-Signs Colin Kaepernick to Endorsement Deal 

The AP:

Kaepernick already had a deal with Nike that was set to expire, but it was renegotiated into a multiyear deal to make him one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, according to a person familiar with the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Nike hasn’t officially announced the contract.

The person said Nike will feature Kaepernick on several platforms, including billboards, television commercials and online ads. Nike also will create an apparel line for Kaepernick and contribute to his Know Your Rights charity, the person said. The deal puts Kaepernick in the top bracket of NFL players with Nike.

The NFL painted itself into the wrong corner on this issue.

Lenovo’s ARM-Based Yoga C630 Laptop 

Cherlynn Low, writing for Engadget:

The Yoga C630 is supposed to last about 25 hours of continuous local video playback, which should be enough to last through an entire day of running around attending business meetings. That endurance is thanks in large part to the Snapdragon 850, which promises not only 25 percent longer battery life than the 835 but also 30 percent faster performance. When I opened a slew of apps like Excel, PowerPoint, Maps and Edge on the Yoga C630’s desktop environment, I barely encountered any delay. Any interruptions I saw were related to WiFi troubles rather than actual performance.

I do not expect to see any ARM-based MacBooks from Apple this year. I think we might see them by the end of next year, and I’d be surprised if we don’t see them by the end of 2020. The battery life advantages are simply overwhelming, and the performance is as good or better than Intel’s offerings at the low-power end of the market. The only unknown is whether Apple’s chip team can compete with Intel at the high-performance end — can Apple make an ARM chip to power MacBook Pros and pro Mac desktops? I wouldn’t bet against them.

Lyft Driver Finds Pixel 3 XL in Car; No One Cares 

The almost complete lack of attention paid to this story exemplifies the niche status of Google’s Pixel phones — which is sad, considering that they’re indisputably among the best Android phones.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring this week on Daring Fireball. Jamf Now is an easy-to-use, software solution to help organizations set up, manage, and protect their Apple devices.

Whether you are looking for a way to organize your digital inventory, deploy device settings or secure your company data, Jamf Now is the easiest way to manage your iPad, iPhone, and Mac devices. No IT experience required.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices free of charge — forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. Create your free account today.